§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Mr. Speaker, in order to regularize that which I am about to say, and to put it in the power of any hon. Member who has anything to say on this subject to address the House, I intend to conclude the statement which I am about to make by a formal Motion,—That this House do now adjourn. Sir, the House must naturally expect that, after what happened on Tuesday night, I should state to the House the course which upon due reflection Her Majesty's Government intend to pursue. Under ordinary circumstances, after a vote by which the House by a majority—whatever the amount of it might be—affirmed that which many at least who voted considered to be a vote of censure upon the conduct of the Government, there could hardly be an alternative left to the Government as to the course to be pursued. The natural course would be that they should tender to their Sovereign a resignation of their offices, and leave to those who had obtained that majority the task of conducting the affairs of the country. But the present ease seemed to us to be of so peculiar a character that we have not thought it our duty to submit to our Sovereign the resignation of our offices. There is another course which the Government under such circumstances might constitutionally adopt, and that is the course which we have deemed it our duty to pursue. We have deemed it our duty to advise the Crown at the earliest period at which the state of the public business will permit to call upon the constituencies of the country to exercise that privilege which the constitution places in their hands. Sir, I say the circumstances are peculiar, because, while, on the one hand, looking simply to the result of that last debate, we might say that we had lost the confidence of this House, yet, on the other hand, looking to the divisions which took place very shortly before upon questions involving very important portions of the policy of the Government, the result was of a very different character. And I feel myself free to say that some of those who concurred in the vote of Tuesday night made it understood that that vote was not to be considered as implying the withdrawal on their part of the confidence which they had hitherto placed in Her Majesty's Government. But it is vain to deny that that vote would render it very difficult, if not 1895 unseemly, for the Government with regard to which it was passed to undertake the conduct of the business of the country in the ordinary manner during the remainder of a long Session. Moreover, the state of parties which that vote indicates appears to me to show—connecting it with the various votes and fluctuating opinions of the House with regard to those majorities on former occasions—that it would be extremely difficult for any Government, whether that which now exists or that which might be formed, however efficient it might be—and I admit, not merely by way of compliment, but as merely stating the truth, that that Government which might be formed by a combination of parties (using that expression not by way of taunt) would be very efficient—to carry on the business of the country throughout a Session in the state of feeling which at present happens to prevail in this House. I will not allude to the very strongly marked difference of opinion between the two Houses of Parliament upon the question which was put to issue on Tuesday night. I do not think that would be a sufficient reason; but still it is an element to show what various opinions exist in regard to the present Administration as compared with that which might be its successor. This Parliament, Sir, is now in its fifth Session, and, measuring its duration by that which it has seen, it is a very old Parliament. It has witnessed more important events than it has fallen to the lot of most Parliaments to see. It has seen three Administrations—the Administration which called it together, the Administration which followed, and the Administration which now sits on these benches. It has seen the transition from a state of profound peace to a great European war; and it has seen the transition from a great European war to the fortunate restoration of European peace. Therefore, as concerns the events of which it has been a spectator, this Parliament has done as much as could be expected to fall to the lot of one which had completed its full term of existence. If the state of business in this House would have admitted of an immediate appeal to our constituents, that is the course which would have been most proper and most seemly. But the state of public business does not admit of the adoption of such a course. We have as yet voted nothing upon the Estimates for the public service; we have arranged nothing in regard to the taxes, some of which require to be remodelled; we have 1896 not passed a Mutiny Act, and that in existence will expire before it would be possible for Parliament to reassemble and provide for the maintenance and discipline of he army. The course which I humbly beg to propose to this House, therefore, is, that we should do on the present occasion that which has been done on former and similar occasions—that which was done in spirit during the Administration of Lord Derby, when it was announced that there was to be a dissolution—that the House should content itself with passing those provisional and temporary measures which may be necessary to provide for the public service until the earliest period at which a new Parliament can assemble. We had proposed to arrange certain taxes for three years; we shall now propose to determine them for only one year. There are some taxes with regard to which it would be very embarrassing to commerce if they were settled for too short a period; but we do not think that a Parliament which is about to be dissolved could properly be called upon to fix them for a period longer than the year for which provision is to be made. Upon the same principle, we shall propose to the House to vote sums on account of the Estimates for only a portion of the year. We propose also to pass a Mutiny Act for a similar period;—thus leaving the new Parliament, which may probably assemble somewhat towards the end of May, free to deal with all these great matters according to its discretion. I should hope, Sir, that this House will see that the course which we are prepared to adopt is one which is in accordance with the principles of the constitution, and that hon. Gentlemen will therefore place no obstructions in the way of our arriving at a time when fresh elections may take place by interposing any unnecessary difficulties in the way of the adoption of the course by which we propose to provide for the public service. We shall abstain from proposing anything but that which is necessary for this purpose. There are many Gentlemen who entertain strong opinions upon many subjects which they would wish to bring under discussion in this House; but they will, I think, feel that measures of importance cannot properly be taken into consideration by a Parliament situated as this House of Commons will now necessarily be. I therefore hope that the same honourable forbearance which has been shown by former Parliaments under similar circumstances will be exhibited by this one. There 1897 is this to be said, that now at least the country will have a really fair choice between two different Administrations—a choice which, without meaning to say anything offensive to any party in this House,—I think I may say it could not have had, at least not to the same degree, under that combination of parties which has led to the state of things in which the Government now finds itself. As I said before, I am stating a fact without making the slightest imputation upon those who have formed that combination; but I say that so far it may be an advantage to the country—it will have the opportunity of choosing between two different and efficient Administrations. That, also, is a ground which the more justifies us in throwing upon the country the responsibility of determining what Administration shall be invested with the conduct and management of the affairs of the nation.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ MR. DISRAELI
Sir, I think the noble Lord has dealt frankly with the House, and I wish, as I am sure that every other hon. Gentleman will wish, to respond to his appeal in the same spirit. I am not surprised at the counsel which I the noble Lord and his colleagues have tendered to their Sovereign. I think that the course which they have recommended will, on the whole, be advantageous to the public interest. With these feelings, I shall myself give every possible facility to the progress of public business, consistent with what I conceive to be the true interests of the country. Sir, I share in the anticipation expressed by the noble Lord, that this appeal to the country, which I for one look to with no apprehension, will prove of great advantage to the public service. I do think that it is of the utmost importance to the character of Parliament and to the interests of the realm that Parliamentary parties should be more defined than they have been. I am myself persuaded that that habit, which has of late been much in vogue, of decrying the influence of party, has had a very injurious effect upon the conduct of public affairs. Party, well defined and well appreciated, is the best guarantee for public and private honour; and I trust that when this recurrence to the sense of the country has taken place, Members will be returned to this House with definite opinions; that we shall know who is prepared to change, and who is ready to maintain, the institutions of the country; 1898 who is in favour of the reduction of the burdens of the people, and who is in favour of increasing them; who is in favour of a foreign policy which, while it maintains the true interests and dignity of the country, is conciliatory to all other States; and who is in favour of that turbulent and aggressive system which I believe must increase the burdens of the people, and ultimately endanger and diminish the power of our nation. I repeat, that I shall meet the invitation of the noble Lord with the same frankness and candour with which it has been given. He will experience from me, and I think I may answer for every Gentleman on this side of the House, no sinister conduct. We shall give every facility to any measure which we believe is sincerely intended for the public service; but, at the same time, we shall expect from the Government a clear description of what is to be their course, because several matters have been brought before the House which, so far as I can judge at present, cannot be cast aside so lightly as the noble Lord seems to anticipate. With this exception, I repeat that, as long as the public interests are not endangered, the noble Lord may depend upon my most cordial assistance in bringing this Session to a close.
§ MR. COBDEN
Sir, I rose at the same time as the right hon. Gentleman because I think there was an omission in the speech of the noble Lord which it would have been well to have had supplied before any further remarks were made. On Tuesday last, Sir, after a debate of four nights, unparalleled for the array of speakers who took part in it, and for the ability of their arguments, since the time when Sir Robert Peel retired from office, this House came to a solemn vote on a question affecting not merely ordinary interests such as we are in the habit of deliberating upon in this House, but affecting the lives of vast numbers of people at a distance from our shores. That vote has attracted and will attract a world-wide notice; but it has been entirely ignored in the remarks which the noble Lord has made to us to-day. I do not rise. Sir, to say one word in opposition to the propriety of the course which the noble Lord has adopted in determining to dissolve Parliament. I think that if the noble Lord, in going to the country, wishes to have a cry which may be eminently serviceable to his opponents and very damaging to his followers, he has hit upon it; for what must be the cry raised at the hustings by those who, in consequence of the decision 1899 of the noble Lord, go there for re-election under present circumstances? Looking to the votes given by the noble Lord within the last ten days—during which he has torn from the hands of my hon. Friend the Member for Surrey (Mr. Locke King) the last remaining rag of the old reform banner—has trampled under foot even that miserable modicum of reform, a £10 county franchise, and has voted against everything which has entered into the traditions of the Liberal party, and for which we have professed to have any affection—has slapped in the face my hon. Friend the Member for the Tower Hamlets (Sir W. Clay) his proposal for the abolition of church rales—the noble Lord sends his followers to the country with the cry, "Palmerston for ever! No Reform! and a Chinese War!" If the noble Lord wishes to go to an election in which he will play into the hands of hon. Gentlemen opposite, he has hit upon a very good device; and I am sorry to see that so many of my hon. Friends on the same side are ready to follow him. But I leave that point. What I want to ask the noble Lord is, what he is about to do in consequence of the vote of this House on Tuesday night. That is a pressing and practical question, and I will show that it is so from the Government's own point of view. The noble Lord and all the right hon. Gentlemen who spoke during the late debate from the Treasury benches told us that the effect of an adverse vote, when the Chinese were aware of it, would be to imperil the safety of the English residents in China—that it might extend the sphere of operations, and might become exceedingly prejudicial to British interests in the East. Well, the result of that vote has now gone out to China by the mail which left yesterday; and I want to know what the noble Lord means to do. Though the mail went yesterday, we all know that it is possible to leave London four days after its departure, and by going through France and viâ Marseilles, to meet the vessel carrying it at Malta. I speak within the mark when I say that up to the 9th of March letters may be sent from this country to overtake the China mail, which travels by Alexandria and thence overland, but passengers, to be safe, ought to go on the 8th. I therefore ask the noble Lord to explain to the House what course of action he intends to take in consequence of the vote of Tuesday night? I do not shrink, any more than those who supported me on that occasion, from the responsibility of stating 1900 what I think ought to be the conduct of the executive Government if it holds office a single day after that vote. In a pressing emergency of this importance they have no right to hold office a day longer without showing their readiness to carry out the Resolution of this House. I have no hesitation, as far as concerns the opinion of an insignificant unit of this assembly like myself, to say what should have been done, and what ought still to be done, in consequence of that Resolution. If the result of that adverse vote is, as the Ministers assured us, likely to be imperfectly understood in China, and any danger, according to their statement, is to be apprehended to the British residents in that country, then I say that the first consideration with our Executive Government should be the safety of our fellow countrymen. I for one do not share in those apprehensions. Judging from the newspapers of what is going on in China, at Hong Kong, and Singapore, I think that before any news of Tuesday night's division arrives out there, the mischief will have been about as great as it well can be. But, adopting the position assumed by Her Majesty's Government—namely, that danger is really imminent, I say clearly, "Send out a competent person by this very steamer, armed with full authority to represent the Executive Government at home; let him supersede all the existing authorities in China, and give him distinct instructions to act according as the state of things which he finds when he gets there may seem to require." Surely you may easily find at three days' notice a man with a good-enough head on his shoulders to take his instructions from the Government, and go out to fulfil them with discretion in China. The news of our decision must reach Hong Kong before it is known elsewhere in China. When it arrives at Hong Kong you will have an immense force there; and Hong Kong, being an island inaccessible from the mainland except by sea, a couple of frigates would be sufficient to protect it from the whole naval strength of the Chinese Empire. You have a great naval force at Hong Kong. What, then, so easy as to send on the ships not required for the defence of that island to the points further north? As we know that a steamer will reach Hong Kong before she reaches Canton, and can reach those ports before the intelligence can travel to any one of them overland, you will be able to place them in a state of defence before the intelligence of this adverse vote 1901 can do any harm among the Chinese. I am now assuming that the apprehension of danger entertained by the Government is well founded, and pointing out to you the course that common sense dictates. I repeat, then, "Send out a competent person from England, clothed with full power, to supersede all your other authorities in China, and to act as circumstances may require." Does the noble Lord intend to do that? If not, what does he intend to do? The noble Lord said a great deal about the combinations of party, and about appealing to the country. But an appeal to the country, as he tells us himself, cannot lead to any result until the end of May. What is to go on in China in the meantime? What was the purport of our vote on Tuesday? Was it intended to reverse the policy that has been pursued in China, or was it not? If that vote meant anything, it was this—"That this House would not be responsible for the policy initiated by Sir John Bowring at Canton on the question of the Arrow." I humbly submit, then, that if the Resolution of this House is to be taken as a reality, and is to be followed, as is always expected, by practical results, the noble Lord is bound to tell us before we separate this very day what course he intends to take in consequence of that vote. I say, provide first of all for the security of your countrymen abroad—you have abundant force at command for it; but let the noble Lord tell us what are his ulterior objects in regard to our relations with China? What does he mean to do with the Government of that country? In his speech of Tuesday night the noble Lord himself seemed to me to indicate the course that ought to he adopted with regard to the Chinese Government. He said that before these unfortunate occurrences took place we sought the co-operation of the French Government, and that we should also, perhaps, have obtained the co-operation of the American Government, in making a representation to the Chinese Government with a view to secure greater facilities for carrying on our commerce. If that can be done, it would be the best mode of putting yourselves in a position to exercise the greatest influence upon China. But for this end it is necessary to clear the ground from your past proceedings, and to renounce the illegality of the position you have taken up in consequence of the conduct of Sir John Bowring. The vote of Tuesday renounced those proceedings. You have placed yourselves on legal ground, and 1902 are now able to ask other Governments to join with you in the attainment of these objects. I believe that now they will join with you upon your new and legal ground; but it is well understood that they would not have done so as long as you were contending with the Government of China on the miserable pleas now repudiated by the decision of Tuesday. I have only risen to ask the question which I put to the noble Lord. I do not intend to complicate it with any question relative to a general election. Let that event come as soon as it pleases. I predict such a winnowing and a clarifying of the state of parties in this House and in the country as may be of some use to us. But one point put by the noble Lord a little puzzled me. I understood him to say that the public would be able to judge between his Administration and some Administration in posse to be formed from the Opposition. Nothing, I think, could be more difficult for the country than to judge between the noble Lord and the Gentlemen who sit on the front bench opposite to him. As far as I can come to any conclusion, after a long experience of this House, I have arrived at the conviction that the noble Lord now at the head of the Government may be deemed as good a Tory as hon. or right hon. Gentlemen who sit on the opposite benches; and whether he sits on this or on the other side of the House it will not make much difference to the liberties of the people. I wish, Sir, to know what course the Government intend to take in pursuance of the vote of Tuesday night?
§ SIR CHARLES WOOD
I should have thought, Sir, that my hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding had had sufficiently clear information as to what conduct my noble Friend and Her Majesty's Government intend to adopt in consequence of the vote of Tuesday night. With regard to the question which my hon. Friend at present raises, it is not my intention in any way to reopen a debate that has been closed. I am glad that my hon. Friend is at last sensible that some danger may arise to the lives and the property of our fellow-countrymen in China in consequence of the vote which he called on the House to give the other night. I wish that he had only thought of that before he made his Motion. I confess that I do share the alarm which he has expressed, and I rise for the purpose of assuring the House that, as far as I know the state of the vessels in the Chinese waters—with regard, 1903 I mean, to their probable arrival and the measures adopted—I believe there are at this time a sufficient number of vessels of war at China to enable efficient measures to be taken to prevent that danger from producing any evil effect. There is one large frigate at Shanghai at this moment, and another at one of the northern ports; and probably by this date, or at least in the early part of this month, three large steam frigates and seven or eight gunboats will have arrived in the river of Canton. A large frigate and two other vessels will arrive in the course of the month of April; two more frigates will arrive in May; a third will get there in June. Orders to this effect were sent out previously to the late debate; and I can only assure my hon. Friend and the House that the Government are now taking measures in order to secure, as far as in them lies, the lives and the property of British subjects in China.
§ SIR JOHN WALSH
I am one of those who voted in favour of the Motion of the hon. Member for the West Riding, and I am anxious that my vote should not be misunderstood. The hon. Gentleman, as I think, brought forward a Resolution couched in terms of great moderation, and supported it by a speech of singular ability. A single issue was raised by that Resolution. It related to the conduct of Sir John Bowring as the representative of the British Government in China. I could not doubt, after the full discussion of that question, that the House must necessarily come to the conclusion that the conduct of Sir John Bowring had been unadvisable and indiscreet, and calculated to entail serious consequences upon this country. I gave my vote on that single issue. The hon. Member for the West Riding seems to anticipate that certain consequences must necessarily follow in China from that vote; and I agree with him. But it is impossible to say that the decision arrived at by the House shall have the effect of reversing the policy which has been pursued, considering that the circumstances of the case have since so much altered. Unfortunately, the bad passions of this semi-barbarous people have been roused, and the atrocities which they have committed, and the breaches of all international law of which they have been guilty, altogether change the circumstances of the case. While adhering, therefore, to my opinion that Sir John Bowring has, by his injudicious conduct, 1904 led the country into these difficulties, and is personally responsible for all the results which have followed, I do not wish that my vote should be interpreted as having the effect of tying the hands of the Government as to any future steps which they may think it necessary to take for the protection of British lives and property, and for the maintenance of British interests in the Chinese seas. The sole question—and it is the narrowest upon which Ministers ever went to the country—is, not the conduct of the Government, for they only adopt the conduct of Sir John Bowring by a sort of ex post facto proceeding—but whether the constituencies of the kingdom do or do not affirm the conduct, the ability, and the capacity of Sir John Bowring.
§ MR. DEEDES
said, that he entirely approved the course which the noble Lord at the head of the Government proposed to take with regard to public business; but he should be glad to hear from him, or from some Member of the Government, the course which the Government intended to take with regard to the private business, which was at present in such a state that the abrupt termination of the Session would cause the greatest inconvenience and expense to the parties concerned. On a former occasion—in June, 1847—the House had come to a Resolution to this effect,—The promoters of all Railway Bills in the present Session of Parliament shall be empowered on the second reading, or on the completion of any subsequent stage of any such Bill, or when the Bill shall have been referred to a Committee, but the case for the promoters shall not have been opened, to suspend any further proceeding in the present Session, with the option, under the following conditions, of proceeding with the same Bill in the next Session of Parliament, at the stage where the Bill shall be now suspended.Then followed certain conditions under which this privilege was to be allowed. He wished to know whether the Government would propose on this occasion any such Resolution as this; and if that were their intention, he hoped its terms would be extended so as to include all private Bills.
§ MR. SIDNEY HERBERT
Before the noble Lord answers the question of the hon. Member for East Kent I wish to call his attention to the question which was put by my hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding, and which I think has not yet been answered; for it was entirely misunderstood by my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty. The circumstances 1905 in which we are placed are very peculiar. We have many precedents of an appeal being made to the people by a Minister placed in a minority; but you will find that in almost all previous cases the Government have been in a minority upon some subject of legislation upon which the decision of the people could be taken at once; but in this instance the Government are placed in a minority by the House of Commons having expressed an opinion adverse to that of the Government as to the origin of a war now being carried on. Clearly, therefore, if no pledge is given by the Government as to the course which they intend to take in consequence of the vote of the House of Commons, that war may continue to be conducted by the same instruments, the power of directing its operations may be left in the hands of the same persons, on whose proceedings the House of Commons has already pronounced a condemnation, and the vote of the House of Commons will be nugatory. My hon. Friend near me (Mr. Cobden) did not say that he apprehended any danger in consequence of the vote which was given by the House of Commons. What he did say, I believe, was that, as the Government anticipated that danger would result from that vote, he wished to know whether, looking at it in their point of view, they intended to take steps to avert the evils which they apprehended. I repeat my hon. Friend's question, and I add this to it—what are the steps to be taken to prevent the evils which I apprehend, and which I think every Gentleman who has read the newspapers to-day must also apprehend? We have seen the state of things at Hong Kong; we are told now of the retirement of the fleet from the inner waters of Canton; and a state of feeling is described as existing at Singapore and throughout the East in consequence of the excitement of the Chinese population, which exposes the lives and property of British residents to imminent danger. These dangers, if they be true, do not owe their origin to the vote of the House of Commons; but they have followed naturally and as a matter of course from our proceedings in China. I wish to know, therefore, whether the Government, during the long period which must elapse before Parliament can be reassembled, are about to continue the war for the same objects as that for which it was begun—the introduction into Canton of Sir John Bowring? and is the conduct 1906 of affairs, whether for peace or for war, to be left in the hands of the man who, in the opinion of the House of Commons, has, by his want of judgment and capacity, brought about a state of things so detrimental to British interests and British honour? I hope some Member of the Government will answer that question. I should prefer that it should be the noble Lord himself, and, in order to give him the opportunity, I will move that this debate be now adjourned.
§ MR. SIDNEY HERBERT
I hope, then, that the noble Lord will answer my question, for it is one to which the House and the country have a right to expect a reply, and I hope the noble Lord will not think me impertinent in putting it to him.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
In answer to the hon. Member for East Kent (Mr. Deedes) I have to say that it is the intention of the Government to propose to both Houses of Parliament a Resolution similar in substance to that which he has read, for the purpose of avoiding the inconvenience which must result to persons interested in private Bills from an abrupt dissolution of Parliament, and which will have the effect of enabling those persons to recommence in a future Parliament proceedings in private Bills now before the House as nearly as possible at the same stage at which they are suspended in this Session. With regard to the question just addressed to the Government by my right hon. Friend, though I must protest against the most entire misrepresentation which he has given of the ground on which we are now carrying on hostilities at Canton, since he assumes that the Government have involved the country in war for the mere purpose of introducing Sir John Bowring into Canton, I have no hesitation in saying that the Government have had their attention most seriously directed to those circumstances, calculated to produce great alarm, the news of which has been brought to this country by the last mail. They lament these circumstances, but they feel that the danger which the right hon. Gentleman and those who sit near him anticipate from them is likely to be very greatly aggravated by the decision at which this House arrived on Tuesday. With that impression forced upon their minds, the Government feel that it is their duty—as it was before, though more particularly now, after 1907 that decision—to take every precaution which, acting on their responsibility, they feel to be necessary for the protection of British interests and British honour. They do not intend so far to defer to the opinion expressed by the House of Commons as to send out orders to our civil and military officers in that part of the world in accordance with what they understand to be the view of the hon. Member for the West Riding. They think that to direct our officers to abandon the demands which they have thought it their duty to make, and to abstain from sending out the means for the enforcement of those demands, would be to compromise the honour and dignity of England. With an appeal to the country before them they will not shrink from the responsibility of taking those measures and giving those directions which they think most conducive to the honour of the country and best calculated to protect the lives and property, not only of British subjects, but of all foreign residents in those parts of the world. With regard to ulterior measures, and the means by which those measures are to be accomplished, the hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding has no right to assume that the Government have now, in consequence of the vote of the House of Commons, abandoned the intention which was indicated by my noble Friend, to endeavour to place our relations with China upon such a satisfactory and permanent footing as will, in their opinion, afford the best security against the recurrence of the calamitous circumstances which have recently taken place in China. In the accomplishment of that object they will use those means and those instruments which they think best calculated to lead to a satisfactory result and best fitted to support the honour and interests of England.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
I really wish that Her Majesty's Government would enable us to help them in attaining the objects which they say they desire to accomplish. I must observe, in the first place, that we, the House of Commons, are about to undergo the process which Mr. Fox and his friends used to call "a penal dissolution." We have come to a certain vote, and the House is to be punished for adopting that vote. That is the plain state of the case. Well, the noble Lord at the head of the Government says he cannot effect his object without the assistance of the House of Commons. The noble Lord 1908 asks the House of Commons to assist him by passing votes of supply as rapidly as we can. The noble Lord calls upon us to depart from the usual order of our proceedings, and to abandon the attempt to carry measures which are of great importance to the country, in order to assist him in the object of making an appeal to the opinion of the country. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) said that he for his own part—and I suppose he speaks for those who act with him—has every disposition to afford facilities for that appeal. But surely, if the House of Commons is asked to afford these facilities, it may fairly require an explanation of the policy which is to be pursued during the three months which will elapse before the new Parliament will assemble. This is no immaterial question. After a debate of four days we came to the conclusion that the policy which the Government had deemed worthy of approval was, on the contrary, deserving of our censure. Are we, then, to agree to remain entirely mute—that we will permit the votes of supply to be carried one after another, without asking what is to happen during this interval of three months? My noble Friend said the other night that the great object of the Government would be to protect the lives and property of British subjects. I have no doubt my noble Friend will take every efficient means for accomplishing that object; but those lives and that property have been risked not by any vote of this House. It is not the echo of our vote that is just reaching us from China. The intelligence we are receiving is intelligence of the consequences that have been produced by the policy which the British authorities there have pursued. May we not, then, ask Her Majesty's Government, "Will you take means to protect the lives and property endangered by the policy that has been pursued in China? Will you not likewise adopt some means for the adjustment of those lamentable differences?" My right hon. Friend who spoke last says that my right hon. Friend the Member for Wiltshire (Mr. S. Herbert) misrepresented the policy of the Government when he said they were pursuing hostilities with the object of obtaining the reception of Sir John Bowring by the Chinese authorities at Canton. That might be a misrepresentation, but I thought it was a very fair misrepresentation. The House is, however, left completely in the dark as to the real objects of the Government, for whatever we assert those objects to be we are sure 1909 o be told we are misrepresenting it. The Consul who required reparation in the case of the Arrow declared that all the demands on that subject were satisfied. We are, then, pursuing some other object. That object is not the public reception of our representative in the city of Canton; but when the right hon. Baronet is asked what the object really is, he wraps himself up in very general and obscure terms, and says he wishes to settle upon permanent foundations our intercourse with China. Everybody will agree that that is a most desirable object; but the question recurs—is that arrangement founded upon any principles which this House has approved? Is it not, on the contrary, founded upon principles which it has disapproved? Who are to be the judges of the future arrangements which are to regulate our relations with China? Are they to be those very persons who have involved us in the present difficulty, and in whom the House declares it has no confidence? If that is the case, I must say that when we are asked for large votes in supply it will be but reasonable that we should call on the Government to declare what terms they intend to propose to China, and with what object hostilities are pursued; because I believe the House of Commons was never, during the course of its existence, placed in the situation of being required to afford the greatest marks of confidence to a Government whose course of policy it has already disapproved—of being required to give rotes implying its readiness to agree with the Government, while they do not inform us what are the objects to which those votes are to be applied. It does not appear to me that it would be very difficult for the Government to inform us what those objects are. I do not think there would be any hesitation on the part of the House in agreeing to all those votes which would be necessary to enable the Crown to appeal to the country by a dissolution. It may be, as many hon. Gentlemen seem to think, that the state of parties will be cleared up by that dissolution. I must say, my attention being called to this vote, I think the noble Lord did not very fairly represent the state of affairs when he said the question that might arise upon the vote of Tuesday night would be whether the present Ministry should remain in office and appeal to the country, or whether a Ministry should be formed out of the combination of different parties who supported 1910 the Motion of the hon. Member for the West Riding. I think it is very possible that persons who read the papers upon China might, without any sort of concert or combination, have come to the same conclusion at which the House arrived the other night. I do not believe that that concert or combination existed. There is, as every one knows, a great party sitting on the opposite side of the House. I do not know that they have a combination with any other party, and I suppose they would be the persons to whom Her Majesty, if She were obliged to have recourse to other advisers, would confide the formation of a Ministry. I can only say that any charges of combination which seem to be made, and which, no doubt, will be got up at the elections—any charges of a factious and unscrupulous union of parties in order to obtain a certain object, are entirely false and calumnious. There is no one in a condition to prove such charges, or to bring the least evidence in their support. Certainly the different parties in the House—a great number of the party opposite, and a considerable number of hon. Gentlemen on this side—concurred in the Resolution of the hon. Member for the West Riding, but I believe they concurred in it honestly and upon its merits. However the Government may admire the proceedings of Sir John Bowring in China, they are disposed to disapprove them. They regarded this question—and it is immaterial whether it concerned the Chinese or any other nation—as one relating to war, to hostilities, to the destruction of many lives, and which might lead to great calamities; and they felt it was a question upon which they were bound to express their opinion irrespective of party prejudice and partialities. I must say, for my own part—having heard that vote of the House attacked, sometimes directly and sometimes covertly, in the course of this discussion—that I believe no vote will do more honour to the House of Commons in the year 1857. As the existence of this Parliament is not to be protracted, I must say I think it will always be remembered to its honour that, when it was called upon by the Government to engage in a contest with one of the greatest Powers of Europe, it never hesitated to grant any supplies that were demanded, to adopt any addresses that were proposed, or to vote any number of men that were required. It will be remembered that this Parliament 1911 never exhibited the least unwillingness, the least backwardness to contend with that great Power; but that when it appeared to the House of Commons that we had engaged in hostilities with a weak, an unwarlike, and an almost defenceless people, then, interposing an interruption to the procedings of the Executive Government which they had not interposed before, they, not less in the cause of humanity than with a view to support the honour of the country, censured the course that had been taken. I think that vote was honourable in itself, and I believe it will be an honourable precedent in the future history of this country. I think Parliaments have been too prone to approve hostilities without considering, and weighing, and examining the grounds upon which such hostilities have been commenced. This House has shown that, while it has been ready to make any sacrifice in order to carry on a just and necessary war, it would not approve blindly all hostilities which it might be asked to sanction, and for which no case of justice could be established. After so much has been said attributing the vote of the other night to every motive rather than a fair and honest decision upon the merits of the question, I cannot but protest against such an imputation; and I can only again express my hope that, before this debate ends, my noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston) will give us some notion—some distant idea at least—of what are the objects with which we are carrying on hostilities in China, and what are the results that he is desirous of arriving at.
§ MR. ROEBUCK
Sir, I rise to address myself mainly to one statement made by the noble Lord at the head of the Government. The noble Lord has described the vote come to by this House on Tuesday night as the result of a combination of parties, and, by a combination of parties, judging from the manner in which he used the phrase, he meant a conspiracy of parties. Well, in recording their votes on that occasion, Gentlemen of different political feelings and opinions went into the same lobby. Is that circumstance to be deemed a proof of conspiracy? If so, then the noble Lord at the head of the Government, on the recent Motion of the hon. Member for Surrey (Mr. Locke King), conspired with Gentlemen opposite to defeat that Motion. Speaking for myself—and in doing so I speak also the opinions of a great many gentlemen on this 1912 side of the House—I know nothing of any combination of parties. I was called upon to give a vote upon a matter that involved the honour of my country. That honour I deemed in danger from the conduct of the noble Lord and his subordinates, and I voted against him on the Motion of the hon. Member for the West Riding. I did this, not because I agreed with the Gentlemen opposite, but because I agreed with the Resolution of the hon. Member. I thought dishonour and disgrace awaited my country. I thought the only shield that stood between us and disgrace was the vote of this House—that vote to which they came, and in support of which I lent my humble voice. We were told that we were to have an explanation. A trumpery statement has been made, and that statement is called an explanation. An explanation of what? Of a policy? No. They have no policy: and hence the meagre explanation we have this night heard. In fact, a set of men who acted in the name of England, have disgraced England; that set of men has been upheld by the noble Lord, and this House, coming to the rescue of England's honour, has declared against the noble Lord and his Government. It would have been otherwise if the noble Lord had continued to be what he was in times past, when he declared himself the supporter of liberal institutions and liberal opinions. We have not deserted him, but he has deserted us. Where he went we would not follow, because it was to disgrace; and it was because we anticipated disgrace and dishonour to England that we voted against him.
MR. JAMES MACGREGOR
said, that two Cabinet Ministers had risen since the hon. Member for the West Riding had resumed his seat; yet the question put by him had received no answer. He wanted a distinct answer to the question, What was to be done with the man who represented the Government of this country at Hong Kong? Was Sir John Bowring still the man whom the Ministry delighted to honour? Did they mean to continue confidence in a man who, according to a vote of that House, had been guilty, not of an indiscretion, but of a crime? Was he still to represent the greatest monarchy in the world, and have authority over the fleets and armies that might be sent to China to defend our countrymen in that part of the world? Whatever might be the decision of the House on the proposition of the noble Lord, 1913 an answer to that question, what was to be the future fate of Sir John Bowring, was due to the majority who voted on the Motion of the hon. Member for the West Riding.
Sir, after what I may be permitted to call the bare and meagre statement of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire rose in his place, and stated that he, on his part, would give every facility for advancing the public business. I have not the slightest doubt that the right hon. Gentleman assumed that which it appears to me the House would then have been entitled to assume, but which the answers since given by Gentlemen sitting on the Treasury bench show me it would have been wrong in assuming too hastily. I refer to that point which the noble Lord the Member for the City of London has argued in terms worthy of himself, and in terms which I think will carry conviction both to this House and the country. Sir, I can hardly express the amazement with which I listened to the speeches of the First Lord of the Admiralty and of the Secretary for the Home Department. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Home Department says he does not understand the Resolution of the hon. Member for the West Riding. Sir, I know nothing about a Resolution of the hon. Member for the West Riding. I know a Resolution which was once the Resolution of the hon. Member for the West Riding, but which has now become the solemn judgment of the House of Commons. In the course of our long debate, different views, different principles, different conclusions, were strongly adopted and urged upon the two sides of that discussion. No man went further—indeed, no man went so far—in vindicating the wretched policy of which we have read some of the results in the journals of the day, than the noble Viscount at the head of the Government. I will not enter into the details of that debate, but every one will remember that views completely opposite were developed on the one side and on the other with regard to the policy and objects of the war in China; and when the Secretary of State for the Home Department accuses my right hon. Friend near mo (Mr. S. Herbert) of being wrong in the inference he drew that we were making war in order to secure an entrance for Sir John Bowring into Canton, I want to know, if we are not making war 1914 for that object, what is the object for which we are making it? It has no reference to the affair of the Arrow, for that is settled: you cannot escape the effect of the passage in which Consul Parkes has made that final announcement to the Chinese. Therefore we can be at war only to find an entrance for Sir John Bowring into Canton. I have said there were two different sets of opinions developed in the debate with regard to the policy and objects of the war. We are now told the House of Commons is to be dissolved. I am not in the least degree dissatisfied with that announcement, as it will remain on record that the reason why the House of Commons is dissolved is because it has struck a deadly blow at a great iniquity. But the question now is—as the House is to be dissolved; as several weeks are to elapse before the dissolution can take place; as several weeks must elapse without a Parliament being in existence in the country; and as some time even after the convocation of the new Parliament may elapse before it can give a distinct judgment on these matters—the question is as clear as day, though two Cabinet Ministers have been unable to comprehend it, upon what policy and upon what principles are your measures in China to be carried on during the interval of three months that is before us? That is the question, which has been plainly put, and it is one to which the House is bound to require an answer. What is our position? Hostilities have been commenced in China by the local representative of the British Government. These hostilities have been adopted, appropriated, made their own, and vindicated in this and the other House of Parliament by the advisers of the Crown. These hostilities are now going forward. It was the duty of the advisers of the Crown, when they determined on adopting hostilities, to come down in time to the House of Commons and to ask the judgment and approval of the House for those hostilities. Why, Sir, who are to be charged with the expenses of the war? I apprehend it is the people of England. Who is authorized to tax the people of England for carrying on that war? Is it the noble Viscount? I entreat this House not to be beguiled for one moment into forgetfulness of its first and most essential function. It is our right, and our right alone, to vote the supplies out of which are to be paid the means of carrying on hostilities in China. But, now that these hostilities have been condemned as to their principles 1915 and objects, the Members of the Government come down to this House and, with that condemnation before them, speak of it as a Resolution of the hon. Member for the West Riding, and distinctly intimate to us that the war is to be carried on in China just as it would have been if that vote had never been come to. Sir, most anxious as I am, in common with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, to afford every just and reasonable facility for putting forward the public business, I frankly own that I am not prepared to abdicate the essential duties of the House of Commons. The House of Commons has been wronged; its rights and privileges have already been disparaged by the Government. They commenced a war with Persia, and they began hostilities in China, without the authority of Parliament. It is not the duty of Parliament to allow these things to proceed, and then to have a bill rendered, and be told, "There is the charge." Why, Sir, you might as well shut up the doors of this House as that such things should happen. It is our duty as well as our privilege at the time when we vote the supplies—that is, before and not after hostilities have been begun—to be the judges of the purposes for which those supplies are given. I defy the noble Lord to escape from the principle which the constitution of England has laid down as to the right of Parliament over the vote of the supplies for the purpose of carrying on the undertakings of the Government. I hope, therefore, we shall obtain a clear answer, or at least some answer—as yet we have had absolutely none—to the question which has been put to the Government. My noble Friend at the head of the Government told us, most rationally, that he was going to make a statement, and he would move the adjournment of the House in order that hon. Gentlemen might be able to comment on it; but instead of making a statement on which we might comment, he guardedly kept back the whole pith and marrow of what would constitute an explanation—we have been told nothing, indeed, except that we are to be sent about our business; so that the only refuge or expedient open to Gentlemen near me has been to get up and put questions to the Government, by the putting of which questions they have forfeited their right and opportunity of commenting on any statement that may be made. What I wish to state is this—that while I shall 1916 listen respectfully to the statement which my noble Friend has not made, but which, perhaps, he will presently make, upon this vital and essential subject, I hope it will be understood that there is no pledge or understanding whatever which in any way fetters the free action and judgment of this House, or implies that we are to play a Ministerial part in regard to the taxation of the country, every essential office remaining in the hands of the executive advisers of the Crown. Sir, the noble Viscount has referred again to-day to the subject of combinations, stating that he was beaten on Tuesday night by a combination of differing elements present in this House ["Hear, hear!"]—and again I see that faithful band, who, I thought, had been immortalized already by the reply of the hon. Member for the West Riding, are desirous to acquire additional fame by adding the high sanction of their cheers to the statement of the noble Viscount that he has been beaten by a combination. I apprehend, Sir, that many questions might be raised upon the meaning of the term combination; but I will say, with due respect to the occupants of the Ministerial benches, that there never was an occasion upon which it was less the interest of the Government to invite a minute examination of the contents of the division lists. Sir, in considering these contents I put entirely out of view my right hon. Friends who sit near me (Sir J. Graham and Mr. S. Herbert). I admit, with respect to them and to myself, that our isolated position makes us the natural objects of suspicion, and that if we be accused of intrigue or combination, though we may feel the charge unjust, we must bear it with patience. I put, therefore, that which is most interesting to me—my own character—entirely out of view;—but when, I should like to know, has it before happened that a case so strong has been established as to compel this House to interpose for the purpose of checking the mad career of Government in a war at the other extremity of the globe? Frequently we have seen this House challenged to the trial of questions of foreign policy; but never upon a single occasion within my recollection has it consented to interfere. The House of Commons has always felt its own weakness with respect to these matters—its own want of information; and, as that is the fixed rule and usage of Parliament, the presumption is, that when that usage is altered it is altered not without reason. In 1917 the present instance Parliament has felt that an overruling necessity compelled it to interpose for the purpose of rescuing the best interests and—what is dearer than all interests—the fame and honour of the empire from the hands of men unfitted to guard them. But, Sir, what was the case. The majority for the Resolution comprised the great party in opposition, which at all times represents either the first or the second power in England. Associated with that party was my noble Friend the Member for the City of London. And who is my noble Friend? I do not speak now on the ground of precise agreement with the noble Lord upon every political question; but I speak of him as history will regard him hereafter, and as England regards him now. He is at any rate the man who led the Liberal party in this country during more than twenty most eventful years, and he is the man under whose guidance that party has achieved the greatest triumphs it has ever won. With him was joined the ablest and most distinguished men among the popular leaders of England; and in the list of the majority we likewise find the name of the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck), who, so far from being a political enemy of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, in the year 1850, when he thought the foreign policy of the noble Lord upon the whole deserved support and approbation, himself challenged in this House an adverse vote of the House of Lords, and carried a Resolution which, no doubt, the noble Lord has always regarded as one of the most signal triumphs of his political career. Under these circumstances, Sir, I think it is a little too much for the Members of the Government to challenge an inquiry into the constituent parts of the majority by which on Tuesday night they were defeated. But the noble Viscount has been so pointed in his allusions to this subject of combination that I feel it my duty, on my own part and on that of my right hon. Friends, to say a very few words. The noble Viscount has spoken to-day of a combination. On a former occasion he spoke not only of a combination, but of the purposes of that combination—of a secret treaty for the acquisition of office. Sir, the hon. Member for the West Riding spoke in terms which I thought did him honour, and which, at the same time, rendered a just and merited tribute to the noble Viscount, when he described the manner in which my noble 1918 Friend usually assails his political opponents. I gladly admit—and it is agreeable to rue to make the admission at a time when I am objecting to the proceedings of the Government—that the good-humour with which the noble Viscount addresses this House is such that it disarms resentment even when he utters what from the mouth of other men would sound like strong reproaches. I am sure that my noble Friend used the alleged combination as a mere weapon of debate, and without intending to impute that which his words seem to imply. Be that as it may, the noble Lord spoke in entire ignorance of the fact, if he believed that any combination existed other than a combination in the division lobby. The case, as regards my right hon. Friend and myself, is this. Upon the first night of the present Session we, like the rest of the House, heard the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) make an announcement for which we were not prepared—namely, that he intended to abide by certain principles of finance, and to endeavour to apply them in the regulation of the income and expenditure of the year. Upon the basis of that public declaration, heard by the Government and the House at the same moment that it came to our knowledge, we supported a Motion of the right hon. Gentleman, with which our principles were thoroughly in harmony. That, Sir, is the history of the combination with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, and in that history the whole truth of the case is comprised. Just in the same manner, somewhat later, we saw the hon. Member for the West Riding rise from his place, and heard him deliver a notice with regard to the aflairs of China, for which we were equally unprepared, but with the statements contained in which we thoroughly and cordially agreed; and in consequence of that concurrence we gave to the hon. Member the best support we could in public debate; and I should like to know whether we should not have been guilty of a breach of public duty, both in the one case and in the other, if, with the convictions we entertained as to the interests of the country, we had thought for a moment of pursuing any other course. Sir, these are the combinations for which we are responsible—but for these only. Our opinions are before the country; and whatever may be said of us, at least it will be admitted that we have never shrunk from stating them 1919 openly in this House. Our opinions, especially with regard to finance, with regard to taxation, and with legard to public expenditure, have been so clearly declared in the course of the present Session, that there can be no doubt about them. By those opinions—not in harmony, I am sorry to say, with the course of the Government, but strictly in harmony, as we believe, with the interests of the country—we mean to abide, whatever may happen in the vicissitudes of public life. That is a duty due from us to public principle; I leave it to the hon. Member for West Norfolk to consider whether it entirely corresponds with all that his lively and vigorous imagination has led him to apprehend. Before sitting down, I am bound to state that with respect to most subjects—with respect to finance, with respect to revenue, with respect to public expenditure, I am left entirely in the dark by what, I suppose, I must in courtesy call the statement of the noble Lord at the head of the Government. He intends, as I understood him, to take certain taxes for the year, and the Estimates and the Mutiny Bill for part of the year. I should have been glad to give to the Government the best information I could with respect to my own course if the noble Viscount had been more minute in the information he afforded us. The matter is somewhat urgent at present, A Committee of Ways and Means stands for to-morrow, and I myself have given notice of a Motion which I intend to make in that Committee. I am bound to say that nothing which has happened yet induces me to believe that there is any cause for this House, during the remaining term of its existence, to relax any part of its vigilance as regards the taxation and expenditure of the country. Upon that principle it is my intention to act, though my precise course will depend upon what may be said by the noble Lord at the head of the Government. At the same time, with a view to an appeal to the country, I am ready to join with the right hon. Gentleman opposite in affording every facility for the despatch of necessary public business.
§ MR. T. DUNCOMBE
I think it likely that those hon. Gentlemen who met by accident in the lobby the other night, would not meet there again if a vote could be taken on the question before the House. I think the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down must have been meant to mystify the House on this question. 1920 He has stated the condemnatory Resolution, moved by the hon. Member for the West Riding out of a sincere regard for his old friend, Sir John Bowring, after an intimacy of twenty years, is now the solemn judgment of the House. Well, if I understand the noble Lord the Prime Minister rightly, it is from that solemn judgment he is about to appeal to the country. The right hon. Gentleman says, "Look at the contents of the division list," but what did he say of the contents? The only portion of the contents he introduced to the notice of the House was the noble Lord the Member for the City of London; and the right hon. Gentleman said: "Fancy appealing to the country against that noble Lord's decision!" Nevertheless, the noble Lord at the head of the Government is going to appeal against this—we are not to call it combination—but this union of parties that met in the lobby the other evening; at all events it is a very remarkable coincidence that the same sort of Motion as was proposed here should have been made by the leader of the Opposition party in the House of Lords about the very same time. Well, the noble Lord at the head of the Government naturally thinks that this Motion of the hon. Member for the West Riding, having been supported by the right hon. Gentleman the leader of the Opposition and his Friends, supported too by those Gentlemen who are known generally throughout the country as belonging not only to the Manchester school, but to the peace-at-any-price party, and supported also by those who were the former adherents of Sir Robert Peel and the former colleagues of the present Prime Minister—the noble Lord naturally thinks that it does look something like a combination of parties that has defeated him. "Look at the contents of the division list," and I say that the noble Lord the Prime Minister is perfectly justified by those contents in appealing to the country. Those who represent the largest constituencies will be found on his side. Out of fifteen metropolitan Members—[Laughter]—aye, laugh at the metropolis if you like; but out of fifteen metropolitan Members twelve voted in the minority with the Prime Minister, and three in the majority. Take the West Riding. What happened there? Certainly the hon. Gentleman the present Member for the West Riding moved the Resolution to which I have just alluded; but I understand he is about to quit the West Riding. What did the 1921 other Member do? Why he voted against his hon. colleague. What have some of the largest towns done through their representatives? You laughed at the metropolitan Members; now laugh at these if you like. Laugh at the Members for Birmingham and Leeds. Then I say that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire and those Gentlemen who met together in the lobby the other evening are not likely to meet again in the lobby on this question; because, while the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire says the noble Lord at the head of the Government has dealt most frankly, fairly, and honestly by the House, the Gentlemen on the benches near me (Mr. Cobden, Mr. Gladstone, and others) say that the noble Lord at the head of the Government has acted most disingenuously; and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University exclaimed, "We must force him to say more, and must have the question answered, 'Do you mean to reverse the policy you have been pursuing in China?'" Why, the noble Lord has told you he does not [cheers]; and he says he believes that the country thinks him right in not reversing that policy. And why is the country of that opinion? Because it believes that the noble Lord will maintain the national honour, and is determined not to permit treaties to be evaded with impunity. So the Prime Minister says to the country, "Judge among the different parties in this House which Administration you would like best; whether the present, pursuing a liberal foreign policy, or a Government which will give you peace at any, price, and will be supported by right hon. Gentlemen formerly colleagues of the noble Lord and members of Lord Aberdeen's. Administration." The people will ask themselves this question: "Did we applaud the policy recommended by those right hon. Gentlemen in reference to the war with Russia. If their advice had been followed, where should we have been now? Where would have been the peace—a peace which, though not all that Englishmen desired, is yet a peace of honour in comparison with what they would have got at the hands of those right hon. Gentlemen, or, as far as we know, at the hands of the noble Lord the Member for London? We are all perfectly well aware that the noble Lord the Member for London was a British lion here at the table of this House, but at 1922 Vienna he was a spaniel. Recollect the advice given by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxford University with respect to the Russian war. He said that that was a wicked war, and advised you to retrace your steps—["Order!"]
said, he believed he was in order in rising to contradict the assertion just made. It was an entire and absolute, though doubtless an involuntary, misstatement. He had never said a syllable of the kind. He had often said directly the reverse.
§ MR. T. DUNCOMBE
—I am not talking of what the right hon. Gentleman said to-night. Did he not say that it was a war in which England ought not to have entered; and that the Emperor of Russia ought to be reimbursed for his expenses? [Mr. GLADSTONE: I rise to protest against that statement—("Order!") Well, if I am not allowed the usual privilege of Members I will sit down.] I certainly must have misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman if he really approved the war at the time of the discussion which took place after the return of the noble Lord the Member for London from Vienna. It was on that occasion that the right hon. Gentleman, though having belonged to Lord Aberdeen's Government—and here is the inconsistency of his conduct as understood by the public, and he ought to be obliged to me for clearing it up—did disapprove the manner in which the war was carried on, though that was a war agreed to under the Aberdeen Government. Then with regard to the right hon. Member for Wiltshire (Mr. S. Herbert)—but I suppose I am wrong here also—I understood him in that very discussion, when the noble Lord the Member for London returned from Vienna, and when we debated the "four points," to say that we ought to have been satisfied with the two points which the noble Lord and the Conference had agreed to—["No, no!"]—and ought not to have insisted on the remaining two. Do you mean to deny that?—["Hear, hear!"] Well, at all events, he said we ought to have been satisfied with three points. Such was that right hon. Gentleman's policy with regard to the war. Then there is the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham). It is now said that the present Government has no policy. What was his policy? I remember that right hon. Gentleman concluding a speech by saying that we should not "drive Russia 1923 to the wall." Why, what was the object of the war but to "drive Russia to the wall? and we did it;" and got a peace, efficient in some respects though not in all, but very different from that which those right hon. Gentlemen would have got if they had continued to have the administration of affairs. Then I say that the noble Lord the Prime Minister will, with respect to his foreign policy, meet with the support of the people during the appeal he is about to make to the country. With respect to his domestic policy, of course he must take a more decided stand—he is too much of a diplomatist not to see that he must come to terms with the Liberal party. He has not said that he is against all reform, and the Bill which the noble Member for London introduced in 1854 met with the concurrence of the noble Lord now at the head of the Government. Therefore, I do not see that any one has a right to say that the present Prime Minister is against all reform; but the light hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli) if he gets into office, will give us no reform at all. Then I think that the noble Lord has nothing to fear from any of these parties; and if he will only continue that course, and will proclaim to the country that he will maintain the honour of our national flag, and that he will not allow treaties to be violated with impunity, I say that he may defy that petty jealousy by which he is surrounded here, and set at nought that misrepresentation to which he is exposed elsewhere; because he will receive the support of a vast majority of that large community whose interests are committed to his care, and who will not allow those interests to be sacrificed either to unprincipled combinations and cabals, or to mere accidental meetings in the lobbies.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
I should have thought, Sir, that the present debate had been sufficiently wide and desultory without needlessly introducing into it the point which my hon. Friend who has just sat down has thought fit to introduce—the commencement and conduct of the Russian war. But he has, unintentionally no doubt, so misrepresented what has fallen upon former occasions, both from myself and from my two right hon. Friends who sit near me, that I cannot allow this debate to close without offering a few words in explanation. My two right hon. Friends and myself were the colleagues of the noble Viscount and of the right hon. Gentleman 1924 near him on the Treasury bench at the time of the declaration of that war. We believed it to be a just and necessary war. We so declared it from the very commencement and during its progress; and from that declaration and opinion we have never varied. Together with the noble Viscount, when we were his colleagues for a short time after the fall of the Aberdeen Administration, we were parties to sending my noble Friend the Member for London to Vienna to negotiate a peace; and so far from driving Russia to the wall, which I admit I declared to be impolitic, we were parties to the instructions which were given to that noble Lord with reference to the negotiations at Vienna. My two right hon. Friends and myself, who still retain the opinion that peace with Russia might have been honourably and advantageously concluded in conformity with those instructions, coincided in the opinion with the noble Lord who attempted to negotiate that peace, and with the noble Viscount the First Lord of the Treasury, who not only was a party to those instructions, but who was at the head of the Administration when they were framed; and I must observe, if we are to try either the negotiations at Vienna or the conclusion of peace by the question whether Russia was driven to the wall, that it must be remembered that that peace was concluded with the fort of Sebastopol still in her possession, and with her power somewhat broken, it is true, in the Black Sea, but by no means impaired in the Baltic. So much with regard to the Russian war. I may now, perhaps, be permitted very shortly to express my opinion with regard to the main subject under discussion. My noble Friend the Member for London has referred to the "penal dissolution" of Parliament, and it cannot for a moment be doubted that the threatened dissolution is of a penal character. A dissolution of that description was resisted by Mr. Fox, in 1784, who so stigmatized a dissolution of this nature, even to the last extremity of the passing of the Mutiny Bill; but, with all respect to that great constitutional authority, I do not think that the precedent is one which ought to be followed. That resistance was pushed, as I have said, to the last extremity; but Mr. Fox, and those who acted with him, although they constituted the majority of this House, seeing the inevitable confusion and mischief to the State which was likely to result from their continued apposition, at last gave way, 1925 and allowed the Mutiny Act to be passed. The consequence was to give to their opponent, Mr. Pitt, an immense advantage—their protracted resistance at last failing placed him in power, which he retained for twenty years, and lost to that party, of which Mr. Fox was the distinguished leader, a great portion of the strength and eminence which until the dissolution that party had enjoyed. I therefore think, both on constitutional grounds and with reference to example, that any such opposition to the passing of the Mutiny Bill ought carefully to be avoided; and I, for one, entirely concur in the course which has been proposed by the noble Lord, and in thinking that every facility should be given for passing the Mutiny Bill for a period to be limited to less than one year. But, as the Mutiny Bill is necessarily based, both as to the marines and to the army, upon the number of men to be voted by this House, I may probably be allowed, though somewhat prematurely, to express my opinion with reference to the amount of the force proposed. As regards the navy, I am quite ready to give my assent to the number of them proposed to be voted. As regards the army, I personally entertain the opinion that the amount of that force is larger than can be required, considering the state of profound peace which now happily exists in Europe and throughout the world, with the exception of the war in Persia—if it still be an exception—and China, the subject of our recent debate; but, confining our view to Europe and to the peace which prevails in the Western world, I think the force is larger than the necessity requires. But if we are driven to vote that force with reference to continued hostilities in the East, even though we are a moribund Parliament, I should demur to being concluded by any such vote, as sanctioning the maintenance of so large an army. It must be remembered, however, that the force voted is a maximum force, and, as the Mutiny Bill for the army must be based upon some definite number, I should, for a time to be limited, be willing to give my consent to the force proposed, always assuming that it will be perfectly open to the new Parliament to reconsider the number of men. But this brings me to a point on which I feel the utmost practical difficulty, and with respect to which I trust that the noble Lord in his reply will give us some clearer notion than he has yet done of the 1926 policy which he intends to pursue—I mean with respect to taxation. While we differ in many other particulars, I think that we are all agreed in this—that in justice to the taxpayers of this country no advantage shall be taken of the technical ground on which it might be proposed to insist upon the exaction of Is. 4d. in the pound, the war amount of the tax affecting incomes, for the year from April, 1857, to April, 1858. It must be observed with regard to this particular branch of war taxation that it is composed of two different items—one a 9d. added shortly after the commencement of the war, the other an item of 2d., also of a war character, making in all 11d., which was proposed and sanctioned in consideration of the war; so that if the law as it now exists were not maintained in its utmost rigour, the principle which ought to come into operation on the 5th of April next would be the reduction of the tax from that period to April, 1860, to 5d. in the pound. The great question, then, will arise before Parliament dissolves, and it is impossible for us to evade it, what shall be the amount of income tax to be levied for the ensuing year? That question must be gravely considered with reference to the expenditure of the State and to the policy of the Government, and it cannot be considered apart from the question of Persia and the Chinese war. Another question, also, hardly less important, upon which discussion cannot be avoided, arises out of the circumstance that £4,500,000 of arrears of war income tax will have to be levied between the 5th of April and the 6th of October; and that that sum having by the decision of Parliament been appropriated to the extinction of a particular portion of the debt—of the £6,000,000 of Exchequer bonds—it is sought by the Government to apply it to the expenses of the current year, by a departure from the policy which was fixed in 1853 by this House in the most deliberate manner. I imagine that these questions must be decided, and that they cannot be postponed. So, also, with respect to the tea duty, which stands for discussion tomorrow night. If the law be left to take its course, the duty upon tea will not exceed Is. 3d. per 1b. from the 5th of April next, but the Government now propose a considerable augmentation of that duty. The same thing applies to the sugar duties; and it is for the House to determine, with, reference to present circumstances, when we are about to meet our constituents, 1927 whether we shall impose upon the first necessaries of life next to bread any additional tax partaking of the nature of a war tax. In passing, I may mention also the spirit duties—with respect to which I may say they are duties which ought to be carried to the utmost extent consistent with security to the revenue. An addition was made to those duties with the sanction of Parliament for a short period only, and it is now sought to render the increased duties permanent. I do not object to that; but I say that these are questions of finance which must be dealt with forthwith. Now, I think that with reference to the important matters which I have mentioned, some explicit information from the noble Lord as to the course which he intends to pursue with reference to taxation would be not only conducive to the convenience of the House, but just to the community whom we represent. If the noble Lord is about to address the House again tonight, I hope he will have the kindness to leave no doubt upon our minds in these respects,
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
Sir, I think that what fell from the hon. Member for Finsbury with respect to the Russian war, has been already very clearly dealt with; but what has just been said by the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) renders it most necessary that we should receive from the noble Lord opposite some more distinct information than we have yet had, whether it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to pay any degree of deference to the vote of this House on last Tuesday night. I think it is quite unnecessary, notwithstanding what fell from the hon. Member for Finsbury (Mr. T. Duncombe), that I should repeat, or in any way refer to what fell from the noble Lord the Member for London, or from my right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Oxford, with regard to the supposed combination of parties which Led to the vote of Tuesday night. But I think it most desirable that we should receive from the Government an explanation of their intentions with regard to the Chinese war, and more especially after the statement of the hon. Member for Finsbury; for, if I rightly understood that statement, he understood the language of the noble Lord to-night to mean that the Government do not intend to alter their policy with regard to China in any degree, or to make any change in those hands to which the conduct of our affairs 1928 in China is now intrusted. I fully expected (and that expectation was no doubt entertained by the great majority of this House) that the noble Lord would, on the part of the Government, announce that it was their intention to appeal to the country; but I confess I also expected that that announcement would be accompanied by a declaration that the conduct of our affairs in China is no longer to be left in those unsafe and incompetent hands in which it now is. I am disposed to infer from the silence of the noble Lord on this subject, followed as it has been by the two evasive speeches of the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary of State for the Home Department, that Her Majesty's Government have not yet made up their minds on this subject; but I hope that before this House is called upon on Friday next to vote supplies in order to facilitate that dissolution which the noble Lord has announced, he will be prepared to state to the House what policy the Government mean to pursue in that respect. I am the more anxious to hear that statement in consequence of the extraordinary statement of the Secretary of State for the Home Department with reference to what fell from my right hon. Friend the Member for Wiltshire (Mr. S. Herbert). If I understood the Secretary of State for the Home Department correctly, he denied that the hostilities in China were caused by a desire to renew and obtain by force of arms the right to enter into the town of Canton. Now, if that is not why we are carrying on war in China, I join with my right hon. Friend the Member for Wiltshire in requesting that we may be informed what it is that we are fighting for. Then, again, I heard with surprise the statement of the right hon. Gentleman, that, any danger to British life or interests in China is to be traced to the division of Tuesday night. The statements in the public journals of this day show that the deplorable impolicy of the course which has been taken by our officials in China has so greatly endangered British lives and British interests there that it is not likely nor scarcely possible for them to be more endangered by our vote on Tuesday night. Let me say, in fairness to the Government, that I am quite willing to believe the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty, that Her Majesty's Ministers have not been negligent in adopting measures for the protection of our interests at Canton and Singapore. But I submit that after 1929 the vote of Tuesday night this declaration is not enough. I think we are fairly entitled to ask—and I am sure that this demand is not inconsistent either with the words, or the meaning of the words, that fell from my right hon. Friend near me (Mr. Disraeli), as to our willingness to afford every assistance to Her Majesty's Government to prosecute such parts of the public business as ought to precede that dissolution which has been announced, with the reservation of my right hon. Friend that it shall be consistent with the public interests—we are, I say, entitled to ask the noble Lord whether the conduct of affairs in China is or is not to be left in those unsafe and incompetent hands in which they are now placed?
§ MR. W. J. FOX
said, he did not wish to delay for a minute the explanation which the House was anxiously looking for from the noble Lord at the head of the Government; but he could not sit quiet under the imputation which had been cast upon him, in common with some other hon. Members, as to the vote of Tuesday night—first, by the speech of the noble Lord, and then confirmed and endorsed by that of the hon. Member for Finsbury. He repelled the accusation that he was influenced by anything like party spirit in joining in the vote which was given by himself and by a number of independent Friends on his side of the House. He thought that it was one of the most unjust imputations ever made in that House, for nothing was more alien from the feelings and sentiments under which those votes had been honestly given. The imputation was of this nature—that they were to be sent, by a penal dissolution, as it had been properly called, back to their constituents with the brand upon them that they had voted in a coalition in order to upset the noble Lord and his Government. That imputation was unjust, because a great number of those who supported the Motion of the hon. Member for the West Riding had been in the habit of supporting her Majesty's Government. He (Mr. Fox) admitted that he had great difficulty in making up his mind to vote on that occasion, because he did not wish to be in any way auxiliary to the restoration of a Derby Government, whether pure and simple, or in combination with any other portion of the Members of that House. Although the noble Lord at the head of the Government had in many respects disappointed his expectations; although 1930 he had not adopted a course which might be expected from the successor of his great friend the Right Hon. George Canning, the champion of European liberalism; although he had on recent occasions lowered the flag of Reform, and thrown it into the dust, yet he (Mr. Fox) certainly was not disposed to give his voice for anything like a restoration of the Ministry of the hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition benches. The hon. Member for Finsbury had charged him with identifying himself with the peace-at-any-price party by his vote on Tuesday night; but he (Mr. Fox) appealed to the House whether his conduct during the discussions and divisions on the Russian war was open to that imputation? On the contrary, he endeavoured, and successfully, during those discussions to excite the feelings and co-operation of what was called the Manchester party in favour of the noble Lord, in order to strengthen his hands in the war against Russia. Were he, and those hon. Gentlemen who acted with him, liable to the imputations of the noble Lord and of the hon. Member for Finsbury after they had sacrificed those connexions that had been long endeared to them in order to do their duty to what they believed to be the honour and interests of their country? Every feeling by which he was influenced induced him to hesitate about giving his support to the vote of Tuesday night. He had had a lifelong friendship with Sir John Bowring. He had not only admired in him what all the world admired—viz., his great versatility of talent, but he had also seen in him sound principles, pure integrity, high-minded patriotism, and other qualities which would make him most unwilling to give any vote or do anything which could reflect on his character or hurt his feelings. But he could not give his sanction to the course to which Sir John Bowring had been a party in China, us he had always held that private feelings should not interfere with the performance of a public duty. He believed that Sir John Bowring had not acted upon the natural impulse of his own mind, but that he had been induced by the sinister and interested influence of merchants, and by the anxiety, perhaps, of military men for something like action, as well as by the stimulus which he had received from the Government at home, to adopt the course which he had unhappily pursued. Under such circumstances, being convinced that the Motion of the hon. 1931 Member for the West Riding was nothing but what was just, and right, and true, he felt bound to support it. But it was not a coalition that carried that Motion. In the majority on Tuesday night were the representatives of all the different principles held in that House. High Conservatives, extreme Radicals, those who represented the old Whig party, every shade of opinion, voted in that majority, and nothing but the force of truth and the power of honest convictions could have brought them together. He looked back upon that vote with entire satisfaction, and could not but feel deeply interested in the policy which Her Majesty's Government were prepared to pursue with reference to China. There was no honour to be obtained in enforcing claims which we had agreed to waive, or which we knew were not founded on truth or justice. The honourable course would be at once to stop such proceedings, and to proclaim to the world that this House would be no party to them; that we sought amicable and commercial intercourse with a people widely different from ourselves, but that we respected these differences, and were prepared to violate as little as possible their feelings and their prejudices.
SIR FRANCIS BARING
said, he was anxious to press the noble Lord for an explanation upon one most important point; but, before putting any question, he must say that he had heard with much pleasure from both sides of the House that, Her Majesty's Government having decided upon appealing to the country, no attempt would be made by anything like a factious opposition to delay that appeal. From the language which had been used on all sides of the House he felt confident that this promise would be kept. At the same time he was sorry to hear the cry which was always raised on occasions similar to this, that there had been a conspiracy. He would only say that he never came to a vote with more personal pain or after more anxious and earnest inquiry, and he never gave a vote in that House with a clearer conscience. If the time had to come again and it was to be the last vote which he was to give in that House, he would give it with the utmost cordiality, he might say, with the utmost alacrity. As they were going to the country upon the question—and he supposed that he and others who voted with him would have to go to the country like the others—whether the policy of Her Majesty's Government, or rather 1932 the policy of Sir John Bowring, in regard to China, had the approval of the nation, he would ask his noble Friend whether Sir John Bowring was to continue in his present position? He wished to say nothing harsh of Sir John Bowring, but it was strongly impressed upon his mind that so long as the carrying out of the instructions from home was intrusted to his hands, it mattered not what those instructions were or how peaceful might be the tone adopted by Her Majesty's advisers, it was in vain that the most conciliatory tone might be taken by the Government. One thing, he thought, must have impressed itself upon the House as most remarkable—that in the late debate, no one except those on the Treasury bench, and hardly even they, ventured to defend the course which had been pursued by our representative in China. He therefore asked whether, after the vote of that House, this country was to be dragged further in order to protect and support Sir John Bowring? and whether Her Majesty's Government not only approved conduct which had been defended by no other Member of that House, but intended to continue the same policy by means of the same agent? Although not professing to be a friend of Sir John Bowring, he was anxious that, for his own sake, he should be removed from his present position. He believed that he was a man of considerable ability, and should be glad to see him employed in an office to which his abilities were adapted; but he did not think that the fortunes of this country, the fate of thousands, and the question of law and peace, could safely be placed in such hands.
I will not detain the House for more than a moment. The right hon. Gentleman opposite, the Member for the University of Oxford, after indulging a great deal on the subject of combination, did me the honour to refer to some remarks I had made, which he ascribed to what he was pleased to call my lively imagination. Sir, I will only say that I shall receive that statement, as I should any other of the right hon. Gentleman's, with civility, but I shall receive with great respect any statement of the right hon. Gentleman as to the origin and character of party combinations, relying upon his experience in such matters. I only regret that the right hon. Gentleman did not go a step further and tell us whether, at this moment, he really was not merely 1933 willing, but anxious to carry this combination to a more substantial conclusion. I have only one word more to say. If it be my good fortune to meet the right hon. Gentleman again within the walls of this House at a future period—I say it without meaning him any disrespect or discourtesy—I hope we shall meet, as we do now, on opposite sides. If that should be my fortune, it is possible I shall again have to remind him of the remarks he has made to-night upon the subject of political combinations.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, with regard to the desire expressed by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle, I must answer that I do not think that the present is an appropriate occasion on which to go into those detailed explanations with regard to taxation and the Estimates—[Sir J. GRAHAM: To-morrow will do.] My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will give proper notice tonight, and will to-morrow, in Committee of Ways and Means, give every explanation which can be desired on these points. A great deal has been said to-night which has more resembled a prolongation of the debate of Tuesday than a debate naturally arising out of the statement which I had the honour to make to the House. It was not my intention to renew that debate, nor will I do so now. Neither will I be led by the tone which some Members have adopted towards the Government to forget that good humour which I think ought to characterise the proceedings of this House. I must say that in one respect the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford (Mr. Gladstone) has to a certain extent negatived the charge, if he considers it a charge, of a combination with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire. Combination implies a certain degree of similarity and identity of feeling. Now, the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Disraeli), in what he stated to the House, spoke with a calmness, a temper, and a statesmanlike view of a great occasion which did honour to himself and to the party of which he is the leader. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford, however, was carried away by an impetuosity and irritation of mind which certainly did not betoken any previous concert with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire, and which will, I think, be considered by him an unfortunate omen for that co-operation which is to follow the 1934 assumed combination between them. I said nothing to-night with regard to combination or conspiracy, or anything, I believe, which could give offence to any one. I did state that which is a fact. You may call it combination, you may call it the accidental and fortuitous concurrence of atoms; you may call it the accidental meeting of different Gentlemen in one lobby; but I say that when Gentlemen are in the habit of finding themselves in the same lobby it is not unnatural to suppose that they may, under certain circumstances, be ready to unite themselves together for forming an Administration, and become responsible for the opinions which they severally entertain. I do not mention this as a reproach. On the contrary, I state it as a fact; agreeing with the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire in the principle which he has laid down, that it might not be inconvenient or injurious to the country, that there should be elements for the formation of an efficient Administration, if the country should think that the present one was no longer worthy of its confidence and support. Therefore I think that much which has fallen from hon. Gentlemen, and especially from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the University of Oxford, was not appropriate to this occasion. But, Sir, my noble Friend the Member for the City of London is always disposed to follow in the footsteps of one for whom he feels respect and veneration, Mr. Fox; and, having discovered a precedent in which Mr. Fox spoke of a certain appeal to the country as a "penal dissolution," he calls the proposed dissolution by the same name, and says that this dissolution is to be considered as punishing the House of Commons for adopting a certain vote. But, Sir, that is a strange doctrine, if this House is to be rightly considered as the true organ of public opinion—if Members are supposed to be speaking here the sentiments of their constituencies. If they are only echoing the opinion of the country, then those who think that their judgment is identical with the judgment of the country, so far from looking upon renewed intercourse with their constituents as a punishment, ought to anticipate it as a species of triumph. They ought to rejoice at the opportunity of coming back strengthened and supported in their antagonism to the Government by the recorded opinions of those who returned them to Parliament. So much, Sir, for the dissolution. Well, then, Sir, the right hon. Gentleman the Member 1935 for the University of Oxford, among other charges that he makes against the Government, says that they embarked in the Chinese war without the sanction of Parliament. Sir, we never embarked in the Chinese war. I never said that we had, nor is the right hon. Gentleman entitled to say so. [Mr. GLADSTONE: I said Persia.] I am glad to hear that, although outwardly and with our ears we seemed to hear this, yet that it was not in the mind of the right hon. Gentleman. This would indeed be a most preposterous charge, seeing, as every one must see, that the Chinese war happened not only without our previous knowledge, but that we were as much surprised at the announcement as any hon. Gentleman who read these occurrences in the papers almost as soon as we were acquainted with them by the despatches. Then I say, with regard to those operations, that the House undoubtedly has a right to ask what has continued and what will continue to be the policy of the Government. Now, Sir, there will be no change, and can be no change, in the policy of the Government with respect to events in China. The policy of the Government is to maintain in China, as elsewhere, security for the lives and property of British subjects—to maintain the rights of this country as arising out of treaty obligations—to endeavour by negotiations either to improve our existing relations or to restore amicable relations if events have brought about a rupture. It is our duty, therefore, as stated by my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, to take measures and to make every exertion to give all possible security to British residents in China. No man knows better than my right hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle that that matter requires great consideration and considerable care, for he on a former occasion rather magnified the danger of British subjects in China; and it is clear that from the number of the parties concerned, the interests involved, and the number of the ports at which they are scattered, we do require ample means to provide for their security. A short time before this outbreak occurred we, in conjunction with France, and as we trusted in conjunction with the United States, by negotiations with the Court of Pekin hoped to improve our commercial relations with China. Every one knows that if a great extension of commercial intercourse between the nations of Europe and China 1936 is ever obtained it will be a great advantage to the cause of civilization, as well as a great benefit to the productive industry of the nations concerned. That, undoubtedly, is a very grave matter, and the difficulty is greatly increased by the unfortunate events that have occurred. And, without stating to the House anything that will produce matters still under consideration, I am bound to say that it will necessarily be the subject of serious deliberation with Her Majesty's Government who the person shall be to whom shall be committed so grave and important a charge. It must strike every one that a person who shall start from these shores on such a mission should be imbued with the feelings of the Government on this subject, and that, being the recipient of their verbal instructions, he would be likely to carry more weight than any person who might happen now to be in China. However, in saying that, the House will see that I by no means undervalue the merits of Sir John Bowring, to whom I think the greatest injustice has been done, and whose merits have been disparaged to a degree that has astonished me. But, at the same time, the Government cannot shut their eyes to the gravity and importance of the matters in hand, and it will be their duty to select for these negotiations, if they take place, some person whom they consider best calculated to carry them to a successful termination. The House must therefore understand that the policy of Her Majesty's Government remains the same; it is to maintain the rights and to defend the lives and properties of British subjects, to improve our relations with China; and I trust it will be found that in the selection of the means, and the arrangement of the means, for the accomplishment of those objects, we shall perform faithfully the duty that they owe to the country.
§ MR. SPOONER
said he wished to make an observation or two on the speech just delivered by the noble Lord at the head of the Government. The noble Lord had said that the talents of Sir John Bowring had been undervalued unjustly; but what did the noble Lord say to Sir John Bowring's conduct in first stating that the Chinese were perfectly right in what they did in regard to the Arrow, and that she was not entitled to any protection, and yet, in a few days afterwards, declaring that the Chinese were wrong, and insisting that we were entitled to reparation. He (Mr. Spooner) wished the 1937 noble Lord had given the House some information on the subject. His (Mr. Spooner's) opinion was that Sir John Bowring had disgraced himself and this country by that falsehood; and so long as the noble Lord countenanced such proceedings he would not have the support of the country in his dealings with other countries.
§ MR. KER
said, he expected that the hon. Member for the West Riding would follow up his Resolution by something more decisive than the sending of a messenger to catch the boat at Marseilles. As far as he was concerned, he should look for Conservatism where he could find it; and if he found it in the noble Lord at the head of the Government, he would accept it. It was difficult to find it amongst the blue, white, and red of the House. The debate exhibited merely what the French called Chinoiseries. He looked for something higher in art—some generalisation; something to tell you where you were.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that the debate had assumed to so great an extent the character of an adjourned debate upon China, that he had abstained from rising at an earlier period. He wished now to give notice that to-morrow he should make the same proposition to the House with regard to the income tax for the ensuing year which he had already announced, omitting, however, any proposal with respect to the two subsequent years. He did not desire to ask the House to agree to anything that was not necessary for the ensuing year, and he should therefore move to-morrow for the reduction of the income tax for the next year from 16d. and 14d. to 7d. for incomes above £150, and to 5d. for incomes between £150 and £100. It would be unnecessary to propose a Resolution in Committee of Ways and Means, as no new charge would be laid on to-morrow, therefore, he would move for leave to bring in a Bill to carry out the proposition he had mentioned. With regard to tea and sugar, he should confine his proposals to the next current year, and he should move to-morrow the rates of duty that he proposed to adopt for next year.
§ SIR JAMES GRAHAM
took it for granted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not divide the House to-morrow night on these proposals.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
1938 said, he proposed to go into Ways and Means to-morrow upon the sugar duties, and to make this the first Order.
could not suppose the right hon. Gentleman intended to move at night the Resolutions he had placed in the hands of Members only the same morning. Such a course would be entirely contrary to Parliamentary usage.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he would not press his Motion to-morrow night if he thought it would be regarded as a surprise, but he did not propose any deviation from the scheme he had already announced, with one slight exception. He proposed that the duty upon tea should be Is. 5d. next year, and that the sugar duties should remain exactly as he had already proposed. As this was proposing no material change, he did not see how his right hon. Friend could assume that the House would be taken by surprise.
submitted that the proposal as to the tea duties was really the corner-stone of the whole matter. ["Order!"]
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the right hon. Gentleman might put a question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but there being no Motion before the House he must now proceed with the Orders of the Day.